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University research uses technology to improve efficiencyUniversity research uses technology to improve efficiency

Corn breeder uses imagery to aid variety developmentKSU engineer receives award for mobile irrigation efforts

Ron Smith 1

September 7, 2016

2 Min Read
<p>Colby Ratcliff, undergraduate student worker in Dr. Seth Murray&rsquo;s corn breeding program, is driving the ground vehicle and using the sensors to capture information about the height &ndash; ultrasonic sensor, the health -vegetative indices, and temperature &ndash; infrared thermometers, of each sorghum plot.</p>

Technology is playing increasingly important roles in agriculture, not only for growers and their in-field management but also for research scientists using high-tech tools to develop the next generation of higher yielding, more efficient varieties.

Two reports, one from Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the other from Kansas State University, show how researchers are using new technology to develop better corn hybrids and more efficient irrigation systems to produce higher yielding varieties and to use water resources more efficiently.


Imagery helps corn breeder speed up hybrid development

Seth Murray, Texas A&M AgriLife corn breeder in the soil and crop science department of Texas A&M University at College Station, says images captured by an unmanned aerial vehicle or self-propelled ground vehicle could be worth not just a thousand words but more than a thousand man hours.

The images can then lead to the selection of the next higher yielding crop variety, not in 10 years, but in two or three years.

Murray says the world of genomics and DNA markers has been around for 30 years, but only recently have they been routinely incorporated into the breeding programs. Genomics allows researchers to identify genetic locations in plants exhibiting certain phenotypic traits they need to improve production.

The next step is development of high-throughput field phenotyping, or HTFP, tools for the next generation of plant breeding, Murray said.

His current project is developing analysis methods and software that will allow HTFP data to aid breeding decisions.

See the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sR58qsJiSE&feature=youtu.be

Corn plant height is a key research target, he says.

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Mobile drip irrigation research garners $300,000 innovation award

Isaya Kisekka, a Kansas State University agricultural engineer was named a New Innovator by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research for his efforts to demonstrate how mobile drip systems conserve water. The award, valued at $300,000, will support faculty members in the first three years of their careers. 

“The unique thing about funding from FFAR is that it is not tied to a particular project, but rather will complement ongoing research and outreach on limited irrigation,” Kisekka said. 

The research team, based in Garden City, can continue important work in advanced irrigation scheduling; mobile drip irrigation; and developing a decision support tool for limited irrigation.

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

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